Levittown – One of the neighbors of Central Bucks Ambulance and Rescue Unit has appealed the zoning hearing board’s decision to allow a windmill at the squad’s headquarters. Some of the neighbors of the Central Bucks Ambulance and Rescue Unit have appealed to county court the Doylestown Zoning Hearing Board’s decision to allow a 65-foot windmill at the squad’s headquarters.Richard and Lisa Crawford argued in their appeal that the zoning hearing board “abused its discretion” and “erred” in its interpretation of the law when it granted a variance to the height limitations established in the zoning ordinance.They said the ambulance company failed to prove it had permission from Doylestown, which owns the land on East Street where the ambulance company is headquartered, to install the windmill. They said the ambulance company also failed to prove that it had an “unnecessary hardship” or unique physical condition that prevented it from using the property as it is.Ambulance company leaders were still trying to decide Thursday whether to fight the appeal.Much of their decision will depend on whether Doylestown Council will give permission to apply for a building permit and whether an attorney will represent them pro bono, Central Bucks Ambulance Chief Chuck Pressler said.”We are not going to continue to spend money to fight to save money,” ambulance company President Jim Gemmell said in a statement issued by the ambulance company Thursday.”We still have to get our deposit money back ($12,000), we are out the money for the wind study that was completed and the money needed to apply to the (zoning hearing board), and we cannot afford to hire an attorney to continue this process. It’s difficult as it is for emergency medical services to provide service.”Central Bucks Ambulance and Rescue Unit spent $1,000 from its own budget for a wind study and another $1,500 in zoning application fees. It also gave half of a $24,000 grant it got from the state Department of Community and Economic Development to Dublin-based OmniWind as a down payment for the windmill.Central Bucks Ambulance and Rescue Unit leaders started talking three years ago about finding ways to save money on energy costs, so they would have more money to spend on necessary equipment. Pressler has said that the ambulance company looked into geothermal energy and solar energy systems, but ruled both out because the systems were too expensive and the ambulance company couldn’t get a grant for them.The ambulance company considered buying a roof-mounted windmill from a company in Reading, but Pressler said the windmill was never developed beyond the concept phase.So the ambulance company decided it wanted to install an independent windmill at its headquarters and paid OmniWind for a wind study. OmniWind representatives determined the windmill would have to be 65 feet tall to work.The ambulance company’s headquarters are located in a residential district, where the zoning ordinance limits the height of structures to 35 feet.Central Bucks Ambulance sought a variance to the zoning ordinance. To get a variance, a property owner must prove that the property has “unique physical characteristics or conditions” that cause an “unnecessary hardship” and prevent the property owner from using the property in accordance with the zoning ordinance.Karl Douglass, the co-founder of the company that makes the wind turbines, said the trees surrounding the ambulance company property were a unique physical characteristic that prevented the ambulance company from installing a shorter wind turbine. He said the wind turbine has to reach over the treetops because “surrounding vegetation tends to create turbulence.”When asked if they had consulted an arborist about whether they could reduce the height of the trees and keep them alive, Douglass and Pressler said, “No.”Richard and Lisa Crawford and several other neighbors fought the variance request in the zoning hearings. They didn’t want the windmill because they thought it would be ugly, or as they put it, “not keeping with the character of the neighborhood.” And one resident said she was concerned that light reflections from the windmill’s blades, commonly referred to as “flicker,” would exacerbate her son’s existing seizure disorder.The zoning hearing board granted the variance. Board member Charles Scott said at the time that the residents presented “compelling arguments,” but the board agreed that the tall trees surrounding the property prevented the ambulance company from installing a shorter windmill.The Crawfords and several other neighbors asked Doylestown Council three times to appeal the zoning hearing board’s decision, but the council demurred.
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